Well, with our Twitter and Society book officially launched, I'm now in a final AoIR 2013 session on politics and Twitter. First off, Kevin Driscoll is presenting on the role of Twitter in the US presidential election, noting how much "Twitter's opinion" was used as a yardstick for overall public opinion. There is some slippage here: "Twitter" as the Twitter community, "Twitter" as Twitter, Inc., and "Twitter" as a source of opinion data.
Kevin and his colleagues examined the Twitter activity around the three US presidential debates, following the live Twitter streams as the debates happened and dynamically adding more and more keywords to track on Twitter. They divided these tweets into retweets and original tweets. Some 0.01% of all users accounted for around 25% of all retweeted posts - and these users included politicians, pundits, journalists, comedians, and a variety of other accounts; 62 comic accounts were the source of 4% of all retweets.
But the line between comedians and pundits is difficult to established - some of the comedians made valid political points; some pundits attempted to be funny. Some 3.4% of all tweets were just about Big Bird, binders, and bayonets, in fact. There are also some strange oddities around the retweets - some jokes and other statements are straight plagiarisms of previously retweeted messages; some users appear to repeat their jokes across the debate.
How does this affect the way journalists may ethically use Twitter tracking tools? How can any reliable analysis be built on data which is clearly being gamed by some participants? If comedians imagine Twitter differently from other users, for example, how can this be accounted for? How can our tools more easily draw attention to the "weird" stuff we may find in the data?